America’s Lost Tradition on Non-Intervention

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By implicitly criticizing U.S. interventionism, President Trump’s inaugural speech drew denunciations from the Washington establishment as a dangerous deviation, but his message actually fit with U.S. traditions, says Ivan Eland.

By Ivan Eland

Although the media trashed Donald Trump’s inaugural address as radical and scary to the United States and the world, his views on American security policy nevertheless may be closest to that of the nation’s founders than those of any U.S. president since the early 1800s.

An artist’s rendering of the Constitutional Convention in 1787

In his speech, the new president pledged that, “We do not seek to impose our way of life on anyone, but rather to let it shine as an example for everyone to follow.”

After George W. Bush’s disastrous invasion of Iraq for no good reason and Barack Obama’s military overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi in Libya, which also resulted in chaos and an increase in terrorism, U.S. re-adoption of its long abandoned foreign policy of being a “shining city on a hill,” if put into practice, would be a refreshing return to the founders’ vision.

Thus, Trump seemed to pledge less U.S. military intervention abroad while still defending the United States. He noted that “we’ve defended other nation’s borders while refusing to defend our own.” And he complained that the United States has “spent trillions of dollars overseas,” including on the armies of other countries, “while America’s infrastructure has fallen into disrepair and decay.”

All of this factually true. For example, the United States alone accounts for 75 percent of the defense spending of the 28 mostly well-to-do countries of NATO, making it a very one-way street in terms of alliance costs and benefits.

Yet as the 9/11 attacks were occurring, the U.S. military — which has been geared to be an offensive force to project American power overseas to police the world rather than to be a force to defend the United States — scrambled jets and sent them ineffectually out over the ocean. In contrast, Trump promised to focus on eradicating the genuine threat to the United States of radical Islamic…

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